Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Genesis 48:13-20, Manasseh and Ephraim and Jason Heyward


Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right, and brought them close to him. But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn. He blessed Joseph, and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; And may my name live on in them, And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.” He blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!’” Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh.
Genesis 48:13-20

The context of this passage reveals a lot about the content of this passage. Israel, when he was a boy named Jacob, made his older twin brother sell him his birthright. (Genesis 25:27-34), and he tricked his father into giving it to him (Genesis 27:18-38). We are told in Romans 9 that God chose for this to happen before he was even born. Joseph, Israel’s son, was sold into slavery by his brothers. Israel believed that his son Joseph was dead. But Joseph ended up becoming one of the most influential people in the world. During this time, Joseph had his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Joseph, speaking to his brothers in Genesis 50, says, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” In the lives of Israel and Joseph, we learn that God is in control of everything, including the evil acts of men. Thank God for this truth! Their lives point us forward to the greatest example of God using the evil acts of men for good: the cross of Jesus Christ!

Looking specifically at this passage from Genesis 48, in verse 13, Joseph brings his sons to Israel, and he places the firstborn (Manasseh) in front of Israel’s right hand. The firstborn son was traditionally supposed to receive the greater inheritance, and the right hand represented the greater inheritance. But in verse 14, Israel crosses his hands; he puts his right hand on the younger son (Ephraim). 

Earlier in the chapter, it said that Israel could not see well in his old age; did he put his right hand on the wrong son? 

Also, remember that Israel was a younger son who stole the greater inheritance from his brother; does Israel want to give the greater blessing to Ephraim because he has a grudge against older brothers? 

At this point, in verses 15-16, Israel asks God to bless the two sons. In verses 17-18, Joseph saw that Israel’s hands were crossed, and Genesis tells us that it displeased him. Joseph grabbed his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head, letting his father know that he had put his right hand on the wrong son’s head. But Israel responded and said, “I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.” Israel knew what he was doing.

Numbers 1 shows the tribe of Ephraim to have a greater army than the tribe of Manasseh. 
Isaiah 7 refers to the whole nation of Israel as Ephraim. 
Joshua, the man who led the Israelites across the Jordan into the land God had promised them, came from the tribe of Ephraim. 
Jeremiah 31 is one of the passages of the Old Testament that most explicitly prophesies the New Covenant; in this chapter, in the midst of a prophecy of the coming Messiah, God says, “For I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.” 
When Israel says, in Genesis 48:19, that Ephraim's descendants shall become a multitude of nations, Israel is saying that the promise of God to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob are being passed on through Joseph's son Ephraim! Ephraim points us toward the coming of Jesus.
Hebrews 11:21 mentions this passage, saying that Israel blessed Joseph’s sons by faith. He wasn’t blessing Ephraim over Manasseh accidentally or because he liked one grandson more than the other. He was doing it prophetically, by faith, through the Spirit. Israel knew what He was doing.

What we find in this passage is an example of something that turns out to be a major trend in Scripture. God’s blessing of people often has nothing to do with whether or not they deserve to be blessed. There is nothing mentioned about Abraham that qualified him to be called by God. Moses felt inadequate and unqualified to lead God’s people out of Egypt. God chose Jacob over Esau before they were born, before either of them had done anything good or bad. God chose David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, to be king of Israel. If anyone deserved the blessing of God, it was Jesus. But Jesus, in this life on earth, was everything but blessed. Jesus was beaten and killed. Galatians 3:13 says that Jesus became a curse for us. We deserve to be cursed; Jesus deserved to be blessed. And God gives salvation not for those who have done something to deserve it or earn it; instead, the blessing of salvation is for those who have put faith in Christ.

So Manasseh and Ephraim ultimately point us to our salvation in Christ. Israel treats Joseph’s sons as if they were his very own adopted sons by blessing them with a portion of the inheritance. They did nothing to deserve this inheritance. And we have done nothing to deserve what Christ has done for us. Yet God adopts us as his sons and daughters and makes us coheirs with Christ if we have faith in what Christ has done.
And Manasseh and Ephraim represent the church in this way. Israel’s blessing of Ephraim over Manasseh didn’t involve a rejection of Manasseh; it simply involved a differentiation in the measure of blessing. Ephraim received a greater blessing, but both Manasseh and Ephraim’s blessings were pretty significant. And actually, if you look at a map of the twelve tribes, the tribe of Manasseh was physically much larger than the tribe of Ephraim. In the same way, God gifts believers in different measures.

Romans 12:3 says, “God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” And Paul goes on in Romans 12 to say that each of the members of the body of Christ are gifted differently. Romans 12:6 says, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.”

It’s a reality that some of us are better at certain things than others, and, on top of that, some of us are better at more things than others. But it would be wrong to think of ourselves as better or worse than someone else because of the way God has gifted us. When we do that, we are like Joseph; we want to grab the hands of God and put God’s blessings where we think they should go. But Israel knew what he was doing, and God knows exactly what he’s doing.

So if you look around and feel like everyone has bigger and better gifts than you, know that God has given you exactly what he wants you to have. Learn to be content with the way God has designed you because he has designed you exactly how he wants you. God is jealous for his glory, and the measure of gifts he has given you is the measure that contributes most perfectly to the perfect will of God. When you're jealous of others, you're ultimately thinking about yourself, but God's gifting is not meant for you! He wants you to do what you can with what He's given you to build up the body and seek His glory!

But if you look around and see yourself as someone who is more gifted than others, don’t think of yourself too highly. There was nothing you did that made you deserving of your gifts; God, by his grace, gave you everything you have. He can give, and he can take away. Also know that your gifts are not meant for your own glory. When you see yourself as better than someone else, you're ultimately thinking about yourself, but God's gifting is not meant for you! Your gifts are designed to build up and expand the body of Christ.

For me, a great deal of what has driven me in ministry has been the arrogance of thinking that I could do ministry better than someone else. This is a sinful mindset from which I have needed to repent! Ministry, in and of itself, is about humbling ourselves for the sake of someone else. To think that I could do ministry better than someone else is a complete misunderstanding of what gifting for ministry is! Any gifts that I have are from God and for God. If I ever use them to lift myself up or think highly of myself, then I have completely perverted the gifts God has given me!

Whatever measure of blessing you have received from God, if you have faith in Christ, then you are truly blessed. The gift of faith is the most generous gift that anyone can receive. Those with faith are adopted sons and daughters of Christ! How could we even consider that not being enough for us? There is nothing about our giftedness or our blessing that makes us better or worse than anyone else! We are called to use our blessing to build one another up. So use your gifts to contribute to the body of Christ. God knows what He is doing!

In August, a baseball player on the greatest franchise in all of sports, the Atlanta Braves, named Jason Heyward was standing in the batter’s box when the pitcher threw a pitch that hit him square in the face. The pitch broke his jaw! A couple of days after he was hit in the face, he posted a statement online. 
He said, “As a group the Braves still have high expectations for the rest of the season, and I will participate in whichever way time and healing allows me to do so. On or off the field my teammates always have my love and support. Good, bad, or indifferent. Our common goal is to make the playoffs and excel in October. My personal goal is to heal in time to be ready to join my teammates and coaches on the field for the postseason with the mindset to finish what we’ve started. Looking forward to joining my team asap and showing them support until I can be on the field again with them…” 
Jason Heyward, when he’s healthy, is a really gifted baseball player; he certainly has helped the Braves to be one of the best teams in the Majors during the 2013 season. But, with a broken jaw, he hasn’t been able to help them on the field. However, in the past few weeks, Heyward has been able to receive the gifts of others. He has gotten an enormous amount of get-well-soon cards; he is being encouraged and prayed for. He’s not a gifted baseball player when he has a broken jaw.  Still, Heyward understands that, gifted or not, he’s a part of a team. He supports his teammates even when he cannot go to bat for them. He sits on the bench and cheers; in a lot of ways, for the current time, he is like a fan. Baseball teams cannot maintain a healthy franchise without the support of fans; ask the Marlins! Fans aren’t often glorified in sports, but their presence and support is vital to a team’s success. Fans support a team by buying tickets to games and by cheering the team on. At the same time, the fans benefit from the talents of those on the field. Fans encourage the team, and the team, in turn, is working for the fans.

That’s not to say that we are “fans” of Jesus; we are all players on the team. Instead, some of us are like bench players in the body of Christ, less gifted but still doing everything we are gifted to do in order to build up the body as a whole. Some of us who feel less gifted in the church feel like we can’t do the things that seem to matter the most for the body of Christ. If that is you, know that you have a great contribution to the Kingdom of God. Not only that, one of your responsibilities and blessings is to be a recipient of the gifts of others. Being part of the body of Christ may mean being a key role player who is seen by everyone or it may mean being one of many bench players who works in the background and supports the gifts of others. Nevertheless, it is wrong of us to glorify or praise one above the other. God knows what he is doing. 

Ephraim was not better than Manasseh because he received a greater blessing. The middle school pastor is not better than the middle schooler just because the pastor is viewed as the leader in the ministry. The worship leader is not better than the sound guy. The gifted speaker is not better than the stutterer. The rich man is not better than the homeless man. In Christ, all are a part of the same body. All are on the same team.

God blesses all members of the body of Christ in perfect measure, and every Christian’s responsibility is to glorify Christ with their gifts and to support the way everyone else is gifted to glorify Christ. God knows what He is doing.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Poems of Light

Fireflies

A purple painted midnight sky
Lit by brilliant city light
This dream of yielding space in time
With a billion fireflies
And in the dawning of a mentioned day
He gives the fireflies their name

And so he said let there be light
And in darkness be night
Before the sky and the sea
Before creature and me
And in wake of every dawning day
He steals the fireflies away

The sky and moon and fireflies
Scream with silent words that cry
For souls to find what they condone
That counting high ought lead to one
For the dawn of every turning day
Burdens all but one to lay

A moon against the weary soul
Who seeks naught but freedom and a home
High and far and long he'd roam
Knowing fireflies can't come too close
And still yet rising with the dawn
The sun stands still for light has won

The purple painted midnight sky
Now faded hind the city light
Inherent hope has every man
That fireflies be seen again
But still in dawning every day
He steals the fireflies away

May the Lights Make a Noise


If the lights made a sound,
There wouldn’t be such a need
For a name to be found
In the stars and the seas.
But lights just keep quiet,
And oh what a shame;
For the end nations seek
Is more than a name.

Who would one be
To put blame on the lights
When the stars light the sky,
And the seas crash at night?
But the lights dim the stars
And turn the seas black,
Still they find no coercion
To speak or react.

The lights of the world
Have rejected the call,
Leaving star and sea
To bear the weight of it all.
May the lights make a noise
For the sake of the damned
Or be damned themselves
In the Almighty’s hand.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Romans Road: The Bad News. The Good News. The Task.

From the beginning of time, the invisible attributes of God have been displayed in creation (Romans 1:20). Creation was designed to communicate something about God, and to draw men to a worship of God. But, also from the beginning, men have chosen to see creation as an end in itself. Rather than worshiping the Creator, men have chosen to worship creation (Romans 1:25). And a holy God allowed them to continue worshiping Creation. God gave them over to depraved minds, minds that allowed them to do things that were not part of God's design for them (Romans 1:28). Because of this, because of God's allowing men to follow their own hearts, men would become greedy, evil, envious, murderous, quarrelsome, deceitful, and malicious; they would be gossips and slanderers and haters of God. Men would be arrogant, boastful, and disobedient to their parents; they would invent their own evil. Men would have no understanding, no trust, no love, and no mercy. And they would not only ignorantly act this way on their own, they would also encourage others to do the same (Romans 1:29-31).
And from the beginning of time, God has not only be the Creator, he has been the Judge. There is no one that escapes the judgment of God (Romans 2:3). God is patient and kind and tolerant of the sin of men, but, ultimately, they store up wrath for themselves because of their stubborn and unrepentant hearts (Romans 2:5). God gave the Law to some people, the Jews. And to everyone else, the Gentiles, God gave a conscience, a law written in their hearts. But the Jews continued to sin under the law, and the Gentiles continued to sin according to their conscience. Everyone is going to face the judgment of God, and everyone will ultimately be found guilty. (Romans 2:12-16). The judgment of God will find that there are no righteous men. There is no one that seeks God; there is no one that does good. (Romans 3:11-12). There are no excuses; there is no defense. After all, God has given men a law, and by it, every man understands that he is a sinner. (Romans 3:19). Every man has sinned and has fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Every man is deserving of nothing less than eternal punishment because man has offended an infinitely good and righteous God.
But there is good news. Justification from sin is offered as a gift by God's grace through redemption in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:24). Through faith in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, man can find propitiation for his sin (Romans 3:25). By faith in Jesus Christ, the wrath of God for a man's sin is removed because the wrath of God for that man's sin is placed on Christ. Whether a man is a Jew or a Gentile, whatever law he has broken, his justification is accomplished through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:29-30). Abraham, in the Old Testament, was counted as righteous because of his faith (Romans 3:25, 4:9), and the promises of God are guaranteed to those with the same faith as Abraham because they are accomplished by grace, rather than the judgment of obedience (Romans 4:16). Without Christ, we were helpless. But while we were helpless, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6). God loves his people, and he demonstrated that love by sending his Son to die for sinners (Romans 5:8). Everyone who puts their trust in the God who raised Jesus from the dead will be counted as righteous; they will no longer be subject to the wrath of God (Romans 4:24, 5:9). This is news worthy of rejoicing!
Death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12), but the free gift of grace is made available to men by Jesus Christ (Romans 5:15). Sin reigns in death, but grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:21). By faith in Christ, man dies to sin; therefore, he should not continue to live in it (Romans 6:2). He who has trusted that his sinful self was crucified with Christ is freed from the slavery of sin (Romans 6:6-7). A Christian considers himself dead to sin and alive in Christ (Romans 6:11). A Christian should no longer be mastered by sin because he is no longer under law but under grace (Romans 6:14). The Christian is no longer a slave to sin; he makes himself a slave to God, and while the outcome of sin is death, the benefit of enslavement to God is sanctification and eternal life. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:21-23).
The law of God and the nature of man wage war within a man (Romans 7:23). The law was given to help men see the sin within themselves (Romans 7:7-13). When men desire to obey the law, their nature causes them to do things that they do not desire to do (Romans 7:14-20). But everyone who belongs to God has the Spirit of God dwelling in them (Romans 8:9). And if the Spirit of God is inside of a man, he is free from the law of sin and of death; he puts to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:2,5,10,13). The Spirit of God is a spirit of adoption; Christians have been made children of God, coheirs with Christ (Romans 8:15). God has known his children from the foundation of the world, and he works all things together for their good. (Romans 8:28). He will work in them to become conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). And God will ensure, by the Spirit, that his children will overcome the tribulations, distresses, and powers of this world; nothing can separate God's children from the love of God in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37-39).
God has chosen a people to adopt as his children. And God's children are those who are saved by grace through faith and not by works (Romans 9). Therefore, if a man confesses with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart that God raised him from the dead, he will be saved (Romans 10:9). God is the Lord of all, and whoever calls on his name will be saved (Romans 10:13). But a person cannot call on God if they haven't not believed in him. And a person cannot believe in God if they have not heard of him. And a person cannot hear about God unless someone preaches about him. (Romans 10:14). Therefore, it is the beautiful task of Christians to be a people sent to preach the gospel (Romans 10:15).
Christians are urged to present their bodies as living and holy sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1). Christians are urged to be transformed by the renewing of their minds, to be conformed, not by the world, but by the will of God presented in the Word of God (Romans 12:2). Christians are called to devote themselves to one another in brotherly love (Romans 12:10). Christians are called to bear the weaknesses of others (Romans 15:1). Christians are called to unite for the purpose of glorifying God (Romans 15:6). But all of these things serve to lift up the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world.
There is no work or deed or law by which a man can save himself. Every man has sinned and, apart from the grace of Christ, is under the wrath of God. Every man is deserving of death and the wrath of God in judgment. But in the cross, Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God for sin, and by grace through faith, men can have eternal life. Men are not saved by anything they can do but rather by what has been done for them. They do not deserve it. They cannot earn it. This is grace. This is the gospel. Do not be ashamed of this gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). So go, take this message to the world. Go preach the gospel, and pray for the salvation of those who hear it!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Letters of Andrew Fuller to Charles Stuart; Kettering, 1798

The testimony of Andrew Fuller, told in these two letters, has incredible similarities to so many of the testimonies in the church, including my own. His intellectual knowledge of the gospel coinciding with a continuous struggle with sin led him to many occasions of guilt and despair, but his witness to how the gospel spoke into his life is one that many of us need to hear.

"I was almost overcome with weeping, so interesting did the doctrine of eternal salvation appear to me. Yet, there being no radical change in my heart, these thoughts passed away, and I was equally intent on the pursuits of folly as heretofore...I went on in this way, vowing and breaking vows, reflecting on myself for my evil conduct, and yet continually repeating it...I had then relinquished every false confidence, believed my help to be only in him and approved of salvation by grace alone through his death...When I thought of my past life, I abhorred myself and repented as in dust and ashes; and when I thought of the gospel way of salvation, I drank it in, as cold water is imbibed by a thirsty soul...From this time I considered the vows of God as upon me."


Andrew Fuller to Charles Stuart
Kettering, 1798

1)
My dear Friend,
You request the particulars of that change, of which I was the subject near thirty years ago. You need not be told that the religious experience of fallible creatures, like everything else that attends them, must needs be marked with imperfection and that the account that can be given of it on paper, after a lapse of many years, must be so in a still greater degree. I am willing, however, to comply with your request; and the rather, because it may serve to recall some things, which, in passing over the mind, produce interesting and useful sensations, both of pain and pleasure.
My father and mother were Dissenters of the Calvinistic persuasion, who were in the habit of hearing Mr. Eve, a Baptist minister, who, being what here is termed High in his sentiments, or tinged with false Calvinism, had little or nothing to say to the unconverted. I, therefore, never considered myself as any way concerned in what I heard from the pulpit. Nevertheless, by reading and reflection, I was sometimes strongly impressed in a way of conviction. My parents were engaged in husbandry, which occupation, therefore, I followed to the twentieth year of my age. I remember many of the sins of my childhood, among which were lying, cursing, and swearing. It is true, as to the latter, it never became habitual. I had a dread upon my spirits to such a degree that when I uttered an oath, or an imprecation, it was by a kind of force put upon my feelings and merely to appear manly, like other boys with whom I associated. This being the case, when I came to be about ten years old, I entirely left it off; except that I sometimes dealt in a sort of minced oaths and imprecations when my passions were inflamed.
In the practice of telling lies I continued some years longer; at length, however, I began to consider this as a mean vice and, accordingly, left it off, except in cases where I was under some pressing temptation.
I think I must have been nearly fourteen years old, before I began to have much serious thought about futurity. The preaching upon which I attempted was not adapted to awaken my conscience, as the minister had seldom anything to say except to believers; and what believing was I neither knew, nor was I greatly concerned to know. I remember, about this time, as I was walking alone, I put the question to myself: "What is faith? There is much made of it; what is it?" I could not tell, but satisfied myself in thinking that it was not of immediate concern and that I should understand it as I grew older.
At times, conviction laid fast hold of me and rendered me extremely unhappy. The light I had received, I know not how, would not suffer me to go into sin with that ease which I observed in other lads. One winter evening I remember going with a number of boys to a smith's shop to warm ourselves by his fire. Presently they began to sing vain songs. This appeared to me so much like revelling, that I felt something within me which would not suffer me to join them; and while I sat silent, in rather an unpleasant muse, those words sunk into my mind like a dagger, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" I immediately left the company. Yet, shocking to reflect upon, I walked home, murmuring in my heart against God that I could not be let alone and suffered to take my pleasure like other young people!
Sometimes, I was very much affected in thinking of the doctrines of Christianity or in reading such books as Bunyan's Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, his Pilgrim's Progress, etc. One day, in particular, I took up Ralph Erskine's Gospel Sonnets and, opening upon what he entitles A Gospel Catechism for Young Christians: or, Christ All in All in our Complete Redemption. I read, and as I read I wept. Indeed, I was almost overcome with weeping, so interesting did the doctrine of eternal salvation appear to me. Yet, there being no radical change in my heart, these thoughts passed away, and I was equally intent on the pursuits of folly as heretofore.
Yet I often felt a strange kind of regard towards good people, such of them especially as were familiar in their behaviour to young persons, and would sometimes talk to me about religion. I used to wish I had many thousand pounds that I might give some of it to them who were poor as to their worldly circumstances.
I was at times the subject of such convictions and affections that I really thought myself converted and lived under that delusion for a long time. The ground on which I rested that opinion was as follows. One morning, I think about the year 1767, as I was walking alone, I began to think seriously what would become of my pour soul and was deeply affected in thinking of my condition. I felt myself the slave of sin and that it had such power over me that it was in vain for me to think of extricating myself from its thralldom. Till now, I did not know but that I could repent at any time; but now, I perceived that my heart was wicked and that it was not in me to turn to God or break off my sins by righteousness. I saw that if God would forgive me of all the past and offer me the kingdom of heaven on condition of giving up my wicked pursuits, I should not accept it. This conviction was accompanied with great depression of heart. I walked sorrowfully along, repeating these words: "Iniquity will be my ruin! Iniquity will be my ruin!" While poring over my unhappy case, those words of the Apostle suddenly occurred to my mind, "Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Now, the suggestion of a text of Scripture to the mind, especially if it came with power, was generally considered by the religious people with whom I occasionally associated as a promise coming immediately from God. I, therefore, so understood it, and thought that God had thus revealed to me that I was in a state of salvation, and that, therefore, iniquity, should not, as I had feared, be my ruin. The effect was I was overcome with joy and transport. I shed, I suppose, thousands of tears as I walked along, and seemed to feel myself, as it were, in a new world. It appeared to me that I hated my sins and was resolved to forsake them. Thinking on my wicked courses, I remember using those words of Paul, "Shall I continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid!" I felt, or seemed to feel, the strongest indignation at the thought. But, strange as it may appear, though my face was that morning, I believe, swollen with weeping, before night all was gone and forgotten, and I returned to my former vices with as eager a gust as ever. Nor do I remember that, for more than half a year afterwards, I had any serious thoughts about the salvation of my soul. I lived entirely without prayer and was wedded to my sins just the same as before, or, rather, was increasingly attached to them.
Some times in the following year, I was again walking by myself and began to reflect upon the course of life, particularly upon my former hopes and affections, and how I had since forgotten them all and returned to all my wicked ways. Instead of sin having no more dominion over me, I perceived that its dominion had been increased. Yet, I still thought, that must have been a promise of God to me, and that I must have been a converted person, but in a backsliding state. And this persuasion was confirmed by another sudden impression, which dispelled my dejection in these words: "I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins." This, like the former, overcame my mind with joy. I wept much at the thoughts of having backslidden so long, but yet considered myself now as restored and happy. But this also was mere transient affection. I have great reason to think that the great deep of my heart's depravity had not yet been broken up and that all my religion was without any abiding principle. Amidst it all, I still continued in the neglect of prayer and was never, that I recollect, induced to deny myself of any sin when temptations are presented. I now thought, however, "Surely I shall be better for the time to come." But, alas, in a few days this also was forgotten and I returned to my evil courses with as great an eagerness as ever.
I was now about fifteen years of age, and as, notwithstanding my convictions and hopes, the bias of my heart was not changed, I became more and more addicted to evil in proportion as my powers and passions strengthened. Nor was I merely prompted by my own propensities; for, having formed acquaintance with other wicked young people, my progress in the way of death became greatly accelerated. Being of an athletic frame and of a daring spirit, I was often engaged in such exercises and exploits, as, if the good hand of God had not preserved me, might have issued in death. I also frequently engaged in games of hazard, which, though not to any great amount, yet were very bewitching to me and tended greatly to corrupt my mind. These, with various other sinful practices, had so hardened my heart that I seldom thought of religion. Nay, I recollect, that on a Lord's Day evening about that time, when my parents were reading in the family, I was shamefully engaged with one of the servants, playing idle tricks, though I took care not to be seen in them. These things were nothing to me at that time; for my conscience, by reiterated acts of wickedness, had become seared as with a hot iron. They were, however, heavy burdens to me afterwards.
But as I have now brought down my narrative to the period when, I trust, God began to work effectually on my heart, I will leave that part to another opportunity and for the present, subscribe myself,
Yours affectionately,
AF

2)
My dear Friend,
I embrace the earliest opportunity of concluding that narrative which I began at your request. By the close of my last, you would perceive, that at near sixteen years of age I was, notwithstanding various convictions and transient affections, pressing on in a lamentable career of wickedness. But, about the autumn of 1769, my convictions revisited me and brought on such a concern about my everlasting welfare as issued, I trust, in real conversion.
It was my common practice after the business of the day was over to get into bad company in the evening, and, when there, I indulged in sin without restraint. But, after persisting in this course for some time, I began to be very uneasy, particularly in the morning, when I first awoke. It was almost as common for me to be seized with keen remorse at this hour, as it was to go into vain company in the evening. At first, I began to make vows of reformation, and this, for the moment, would afford a little ease. But, as the temptations returned, my vows were of no account. It was an enlightened conscience only that was on the side of God; my heart was still averse to everything that was spiritual or holy. For several weeks I went on in this way, vowing and breaking vows, reflecting on myself for my evil conduct, and yet continually repeating it. It was not now, however, as heretofore; my convictions followed me up closely. I could not, as formerly, forget these things and was therefore a poor miserable creature; like a drunkard, who carouses in the evening, but mopes about the next day like one half dead.
One morning, I think in November, 1769, I walked out by myself with an unusual load of guilt upon my conscience. The remembrance of my sin, not only on the past evening, but for a long time back, the breach of my vows, and the shocking termination of my former hopes and affections, all uniting together, formed a heavy burden which I knew not how to bear. The reproaches of a guilty conscience seemed like the gnawing worm of hell. I thought, "Surely that must be an earnest of hell itself!" The fire and brimstone of the bottomless pit seemed to burn within my bosom. I do not write in the language of exaggeration. I now know that the sense which I then had of the evil of sin and the wrath of God was very far short of the truth; but yet it seemed more than I was able to sustain. In reflecting upon my broken vows, I saw that there was no truth in me. I saw that God would be perfectly just in sending me to hell, and that to hell I must go, unless I were saved of mere grace, and as it were in spite of myself. I felt that if God were to forgive me all my past sins, I should again destroy my soul, and that in less than a day's time. I never before knew what it was to feel myself an odious, lost sinner, standing in need of both pardon and purification. Yet, though I needed those blessings, it seemed presumption to hope for them after what I had done. I was absolutely helpless and seemed to have nothing about me that ought to excite the pity of God, or that I could reasonably expect should do so, but everything disgusting to him and provoking to the eyes of his glory. "What have I done? What must I do?" These were my inquiries, perhaps ten times over. Indeed, I knew not what to do! I durst not promise amendment; for I saw such promises were self-deception. To hope for forgiveness in the course that I was in was the height of presumption; and to think that Christ, after having so basely abused his grace, seemed too much. So I had no refuge. At one moment, I thought of giving myself up to despair. "I may," said I within myself," even return and take my fill of sin; I can but be lost." This thought made me shutter at myself. My heart revolted. "What!," thought I, "give up Christ, and hope, and heaven!" Those lines of Ralph Erskine's then occurred to my mind:
But say, if all the gusts
And grains of love be spent ,
Say, Farewell Christ, and welcome lusts
Stop, stop; I melt, I faint!

I could not bear the thought of plunging myself into endless ruin.
It is difficult at this distance of time to recollect with precision the minute workings of my mind; but, as near as I can remember, I was like a man drowning, looking every way for help, or, rather, catching for something by which he might save his life. I tried to find whether there was any hope in the divine mercy, any in the Saviour of sinners; but felt repulsed by the thought of mercy having been so basely abused already. In this state of mind, as I was moving slowly on, I thought of the resolution of Job, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." I paused and repeated the words over and over. Each repetition seemed to kindle a ray of hope, mixed with a determination, if I might, to cast my perishing soul upon the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, to be both pardoned and purified; for I felt that I needed the one as much as the other.
I was not then aware that any poor sinner had a warrant to believe in Christ for the salvation of his soul; but supposed there must be some kind of qualification to entitle him to do it. Yet I was aware that I had no qualifications. On a review of my resolution at that time, it seems to resemble that of Esther, who went into the king's presence contrary to the law and at the hazard of her life. Like her, I seemed reduced to extremities, impelled by dire necessity to run all hazards, even though I should perish in the attempt. Yet it was not altogether from a dread of wrath that I fled to this refuge; for I well remember that I felt something attracting in the Saviour. "I must–I will–yes–I will trust my soul, my sinful, lost soul in his hands. If I perish, I perish!" However it was, I was determined to cast myself upon Christ, thinking, peradventure, he would save my soul; and if not, I could be but lost. In this way I continued above an hour, weeping and supplicating mercy for the Saviour's sake. My soul has it still in remembrance and is humbled in me! And as the eye of the mind was more and more fixed upon him, my guilt and fears were gradually and insensibly removed.

I now found rest for my troubled soul; and I reckon that I should have found it sooner, if I had not entertained the notion of having no warrant to come to Christ without some previous qualification. This notion was a bar that kept me back for a time; though, through divine drawings, I was enabled to overleap it. As near as I can remember, in the early part of these exercises when I subscribed to the justice of God in my condemnation, and thought of the Saviour of sinners, I had then relinquished every false confidence, believed my help to be only in him and approved of salvation by grace alone through his death. And if, at that time, I had know that any poor sinner might warrantably have trusted in him for salvation, I believe I should have done so and have found rest to my soul sooner than I did. I mention this because it may be the case with others, who may be kept in the darkness and despondency by erroneous views of the gospel much longer than I was.
I think also, I did repent of my sin in the early part of these exercises, and before I thought that Christ would accept and save my soul. I conceive that justifying God in my condemnation and approving the way of salvation by Jesus Christ necessarily included it; but yet I did not think at that time that this was repentance or anything truly good. Indeed, I thought nothing about the exercises of my own mind, but merely of my guilt and lost condition and whether there were any hope of escape for me. But, having found rest for my soul in the cross of Christ, I was not conscious of my being the subject of repentance, faith, and love. When I thought of my past life, I abhorred myself and repented as in dust and ashes; and when I thought of the gospel way of salvation, I drank it in, as cold water is imbibed by a thirsty soul. My heart felt one with Christ and dead to every other object around me. I had thought I had found the joys of salvation heretofore; but now I knew I had found them and was conscious that I had passed from death unto life. Yet, even now, my mind was not so engaged in reflecting upon my own feelings, as upon the objects which occasioned them.
From this time, my former wicked courses were forsaken. I had no manner of desire after them. They lost their influence upon me. To those evils, a glance at which before would have set my passions in a flame, I now felt no inclination. "My soul," said I with joy and triumph, "is as a weaned child!" I now knew experimentally what it was to be dead to the world by the cross of Christ and to feel an habitual determination to devote my future life to God my Saviour.
From this time I considered the vows of God as upon me. But, ah, I have great reason for shame and bitter reflection on reviewing the manner in which they have been fulfilled. Nevertheless, by the help of God, I continue in his service to this day; and daily live in hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ my Lord and only Saviour.
I am, affectionately yours,
A.F.



These letters are published in "The armies of the Lamb: the Spirituality of Andrew Fuller" edited and introduced by Michael A.G. Haykin. I could not find these letters published, in full, anywhere else online. I hope that they are worth my typing efforts in encouragement to readers, as they were to me. If you think you have found a typing error, leave a comment. I want to honor the original text with accuracy, so I want to correct any mistakes I may have made.